Two years ago, Wikileaks released a bunch of internal e-mails and documents from Sony. A major corporate leak, it has transformed into a historical document, and a rare one, too, a look at the machinations, from the trivial and menial to real, unvarnished insight into the corporate executive mind. You’d have thought everything had been pored over, but there are still unread files that we’ve been having a look at over Christmas — such as the Disputed Characters sheets between Marvel and Sony.
At the time, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) had the full rights and exploitation use of Spider-Man and its spinoff characters. This would be before the decision to let Marvel Studios make the Spider-Man films and use the character in the Captain America and Avengers films.
In the original examination of the leaks, Gawker reported, “Spider-Man Can’t Be Gay or Black”.
At the time, they pointed out that the contract went into effect in September of 2011, “just one month after a black-latino character named Miles Morales donned the Spider-Man costume in a comic book. After years of internet campaigning, actor/rapper Donald Glover went on to do voice acting for a cartoon version of the Miles Morales Spider-Man, still leaving many fans disappointed that he wouldn’t portray the character in a true Hollywood version. Now we know it’s because Donald Glover as Peter Parker would’ve breached a racial contract.”
However, it appears there were additional documents not picked up at the time. Documents labelled “Spider-Man Disputed Characters List” from 2011 see Sony trying to clarify which characters they could or couldn’t use in the Spider-Man movies stating “It has been generally agreed upon that incidental minor characters related to granted major characters will also be granted to SPE”, and demanding that included characters associated with the Scarlet Spider and the Jackal, Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Woman and long lists of characters it would, frankly, have been unlikely to see in such a film including Black Bee, Desinna, Draco, Dragon Men, Specialist 2099, The Spider-Man imposter and The Jury, a team that were also associated with Iron Man “which SPE believes are primarily associated with and critical to the Venom storyline. Marvel previously stated its issue granting these characters due to their relation to Iron Man, however, their only relation to Iron Man is with regard to their armor.”
Apparently there was also an agreement between the companies to “freeze” what they referred to as “any “deviant” Spider-Man characters (e.g., Spider-Ham)” but Sony thought that a number did not fall under that category and so should be available for them, including Cosmic Spider-Man, Pestilence, Spider (1602), Spider-Woman (II) / Julia Cornwall Carpenter, Spider-X.
While they wanted to add to the “freeze” list characters that were shared between franchises, such as the Fantastic Four Spider-Man of the Fantastic Five or The Black Apostles from Thor. They also wanted the rights to the supervillain prison Ryker’s Island and Percy Alexander Rue, the prison warden.
Marvel also showed a lack of knowledge of some of their own characters, such as asking Sony who Gulyadkin, Kraven’s pet lion was. Sony provided links to the fan-run Marvel Wikia site or to Wikipedia for the Leo Zelinsky character.
But as to Miles Morales… the character of the new mixed race Spider-Man character Miles Morales was portrayed as heterosexual, but at the time of the characters’ announcement, Sara Pichelli, who designed Spider-Man’s new look and drew the comic initially, commented to USA Today, “Maybe sooner or later a black or gay — or both — hero will be considered something absolutely normal,” which some media sources (i.e., the Daily Mail) took as meaning that Miles Morales could be gay. Even if that was clearly not the case. But Sony noticed.
Because as to the definition of Spider-Man always being portrayed as Caucasian and heterosexual, Sony specifically requested that:
- Miles Morales to be added to “Alternative Spider-Man” schedule and Miles Morales’ Spider-Man costume to be added to the “Named Costumes” list
- Note that Miles Morales is not subject to the “Caucasian” requirement
- Note that if Miles Morales has new powers, those new powers qualify regardless of when portrayed
- Discuss the rumor that Miles Morales may be portrayed as gay. If Marvel explicitly portrays Miles Morales as being gay, SPE would like the right to portray the Miles Morales character as being gay.
As it was, it didn’t come up…